Religion and the Great Migrations
The paragraphs that follow are excerpted from
The Southern Diaspora:
How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America
by James N. Gregory

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From one perspective, church building by the two groups of former southerners was collaborative, contributing to a major reorganization in American religious patterns. Religious historians locate two great trends in American religious practice in the second half of the twentieth century. One involves a dramatically expanded pluralism of faith and form. The other involves the resurgence of evangelicalism, the fervent, born-again Protestantism that had seemed to be disappearing earlier in the century. Both of these developments were partially an outgrowth of the Southern Diaspora. Over time the two groups of migrant southerners helped change the balance of religious forces in the regions where they settled, especially in the great cities of the North.  Once overwhelmingly Catholic, metropolitan areas like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and most others except New York and Boston became increasingly Protestant as the century progressed, new kinds of Protestant. Black southerners in the central cities and white southerners in the surrounding suburbs spread Baptist and Pentecostal churches while making born-again Christianity the most dynamic force in the religious mix of those areas. Some religious scholars have called this the "southernization of American religion."

From another perspective, the religious energies of white and black southerners were not collaborative. Their faiths were similar but their churches operated quite differently in the secular world. Black church building contributed in various ways to the push for African American empowerment. Indeed, nothing was more critical to the development of urban African American civic life and political influence and the consequent reorganization of race and rights. The road walked by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr. passed through the churches that black southerners would build in the North.  White migrant church building typically had nearly opposite implications. Most of these institutions would promote various forms of social conservatism and would help, at some moments, to move the  civic culture of white suburbs and working-class neighborhoods to the right. The road to Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority also passed through diaspora churches. In their secular effects, these parallel bodies of southern origin churches were not parallel at all.

an excerpt from  Ch 6 "Gospel Highways"


The Southern Diaspora: How The Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America is the first historical study of the Southern Diaspora in its entirety. Between 1900 and the 1970s, twenty million southerners migrated north and west. Weaving together for the first time the histories of these black and white migrants, James Gregory traces their paths and experiences in a comprehensive new study that demonstrates how this regional diaspora reshaped America by "southernizing" communities and transforming important cultural and political institutions.

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